Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Power of social media: He tracked down his birth parents, now he's helping others

With nothing but his mother's name and the address of his Russian orphanage, Alex Gilbert tracked down his birth parents through social media.

And now he's helping other adoptees find out where they come from too.

The 24-year-old grew up in Whangarei knowing he was adopted but said he always wanted to know more.

His parents, Janice and Mark Gilbert, told him everything they knew -- they found him and his brother, Andrei, who is not biologically related, at an orphanage in Archangelsk, Russia, in 1994. The boys were 2-years-old at the time.

After spending all his life wondering, in 2013 he tracked his birth mother down through social media and later that year, at 21 years old, Mr Gilbert boarded a flight to begin his 30-hour journey to Russia flanked by TVNZ reporters.

Not only did he meet his birth mother, but he also spent time getting to know his birth father -- the pair stay in touch and message frequently.

"It was incredible to meet them," he said.

After the high of the trip, he wanted to share his story and inspire other adoptees to track down their biological parents too but found there was no outlet. So he created one.

Photo / Jason Oxenham
Photo / Jason Oxenham

The production assistant at TVNZ set up the website I'm Adopted and created a community of adoptees all ready and willing to help others track down their histories.

"There's a lot of Russian adoptees in New Zealand ... but there's also people from South Korea, America -- people from all over the world have been sharing their stories. There's a lot of people helping each other.

"I've seen so many stories being shared. There was one where someone was adopted into a place in Canada then he found his birth father on LinkedIn."

The army of keyboard detectives use contacts and local information to help others out. Mr Gilbert said some people even drove to remote villages to try to track down information.

But when he returned to Russia late last year to appear on a television show, Mr Gilbert said lots of people told him they couldn't understand much of the site because it was all in English.

So with the help of his Russian girlfriend and his crew of I'm Adopted devotees, he's just launched the site with Russian translations.

"So anyone looking at any of the stories on the site they can click a 'translate' button and it switches to Russian."

Mr Gilbert would also like to provide translations in Romanian, Ukrainian and Filipino because those countries also have a lot of children adopted from them.

"It's so good to see so many people sharing their stories."

- NZ Herald

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